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“When I used to visit him, he was happy to have me.”

“He’s happy you’re here, trust me. Your father doesn’t talk about things. He never really has. He keeps his feelings to himself. After you stopped visiting, I think he just got lonely, and instead of doing something about his loneliness, he held it inside and kept his feelings buried.”

“Were you and him in love?”

She shook her head. “Maybe puppy love, but he really loved your mom, he just made a few mistakes along the way. And I’ve truly only loved one man.” Tears fell from her eyes, and she laughed as she wiped them away, seeming somewhat embarrassed. “This is what happens when you work too many nightshifts in a hospital.”

“I really hope things work out with you and Mr. Watson.”

With a tight smile, she nodded. “Thank you, Levi. Now, on to the important things. Are you hungry?”

She proceeded to cook me breakfast, and I couldn’t help but think about how I missed my own mom. When she wasn’t too far gone into her mind, she would make me breakfast and we would have conversations in the mornings. I missed that.

After we ate breakfast, I thanked Mrs. Watson and walked out of the front of the house to head home.

“He loves you, Levi. You know that, right?” Mrs. Watson said, standing in her doorway. I shrugged, making her frown. “The day he found out about the cancer, he came to me. The same way you did. I sat with him and asked him if he had the chance to fix one thing in his life, what would it be.”

“What did he say?”

“Nothing. He said nothing. But a few weeks later, you showed up, and I think that said more than any words could ever say.”

* * *

The next Saturday night was the night of our “Art & Soul” showcase for Mr. Harper and Ms. Jameson’s class. Lance and Daisy told me they would be there front row and center. Dad had a home nurse staying with us to help care for him, so he wouldn’t be able to make it. Not that he would’ve anyway.

Simon and Abigail showed up, too, lips locked through most of the night. God. Kissing that much had to be tiring.

The showcase was taking place in the auditorium, which held a lot more people than I’d thought it would. Aria and I sat in the wings of the stage, watching the people who performed before us. Everyone else already had their piece of art completed, so when they went out there, the artist discussed their techniques and then their partner played a musical number.

Aria’s breaths were picking up as she stared out at the stage. “This was a terrible idea,” she said, shaking her head back and forth. “We should’ve just did like everyone else and had the painting completed. What if I can’t do it? What if I freeze up and can’t paint in front of all of those people? What if—”

“Just look at me,” I offered. “Just look at me and breathe. You can do this, Art.”

She nodded once and glanced out at the audience. Her eyes widened. “He’s here.”

“Your dad?” I asked, knowing she’d been worried that he wouldn’t show.

“No. I mean, yeah, he’s here, but I wasn’t talking about him.”

“Then who?” I looked out to see my dad sitting next to Lance and a lump formed in my throat. He looked weak, and tired, and hardly there, but he was there. He came.

Mr. Harper announced us, and we walked on stage. As Aria set up all of her art supplies, I was in charge of greeting the audience. “Hi, everyone. I’m Levi Myers and this is Aria Watson setting up her stuff behind me. We decided that we wanted to do three live art pieces to showcase our collection. We thought it would be cool to paint it in real time instead of completing the pieces beforehand. Or perhaps we were just really last minute and didn’t get our work done in time,” I joked, making the room laugh. “Our collection is entitled, ‘Nonsensical Oxymorons.’”

Aria gave me a smile, indicating that she was ready to start. I grabbed my violin, cleared my throat, and started to play. The bow rolled across the strings as I began to play “Love You Till The End” as Aria used broken sticks and leaves from the woods to create her abstract piece.

She used dark, moody colors: deep blues, dark purples, blacks, grays, browns. She created a piece of art filled with darkness, despair, anger. As I became lost in the music, she became lost in the colors. She drowned as the colors drowned; she grew gloomy as her colors cried. She became the art. It was scary and beautiful all at once.

The second song was “Fix You” by Coldplay. She used bright colors: yellows, pinks, oranges. Her body loosened up as she splattered the paint onto the second canvas with ease. Her once dark demeanor was overtaken with a light of someone healing, finding their way, finding their happiness. She allowed the sound of my violin playing to be the exact opposite of what she created. It was cool seeing so much brightness and life on the second canvas.

Last, I played “Masterpiece”, by Jessie J—Aria’s song choice. The song was about feeling an overwhelming amount of pressure on a person’s life. But it also showcased the idea of falling and standing back up. It was about finding one’s way, learning to live, learning to breathe.

Aria paused for a few beats, staring blankly at the empty canvas. She dropped the sticks and leaves from her hold and her fingers dipped into a mixture of colors. Purples, greens, yellows, blues. Her eyes watered over, and she started painting with her fingers, running her hands up and down the canvas. The colors dripped, mixed, and blended. She started painting frantic, her tears falling down her cheeks as she wiped them with her paint-filled fingertips.